Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Arminian Takes on the Question of Universalism

William Birch, one of classical Arminianism’s more august bloggers with his site, The Arminian, has been commenting of late on the issues of inclusivism and universalism. Both have been at the forefront of theological discussion recently due in no small measure to a rather contentious book entitled Love Wins by Rob Bell. This is not about Bell or his book and I have convinced myself to avoid both the book and the author unless compelled through other related issues. Instead, it is the idea of universalism and Birch’s response to it that intrigued me. Dr. Roger Olson, a noted Baptist professor of theology at Baylor University, posed a question recently that prompted William to respond. To paraphrase (although the question can be found here), if God somehow irrefutably convinced you that He was going to ultimately save all persons regardless of the life they lived, how would this affect your Christian faith? Olson certainly refutes the Universalist position and to summarize William, I understand him to state it would be “devastating” to his faith. I certainly concur with that assessment and his post goes right to the heart of the matter.

I look at this issue of Universalism from another perspective as well. Aside from its devastating impact on evangelism i.e. no need for such if all are ultimately saved, it moves the focus of salvation from a decidedly Christocentric perspective to one grounded in universal election. Election becomes paramount and Christ subservient to an already elect humanity.  Christ no longer died to save souls but died to be a cog in the wheel of God’s plan of salvation. All the typology and purpose of a chosen people in scripture becomes filler for the grist mill and the Bible itself mere empty pages devoid of purpose. Whether with a bible in hand or a primer provided by Aton LeVey, truth and falsehood lose any purpose or distinction and each ultimately become equal lies. Dr. Olson’s question probes the very edge of the worse blasphemy imaginable, that God is a liar and that the Christian faith is a canard. Because of that I have no alternative but to consider Universalism to be antichrist and damnable and that conclusion brings me to consider Olson’s question dangerous and inappropriate if it is left open ended without a discussion of it’s true impact on Christian faith.